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New South Wales - Publications Details


Quinn, Peter E
Unenlightened efficiency: the administration of the juvenile correction system in New South Wales 1905-1988
Type of Work
PhD thesis
University of Sydney, History, 27 March 2006

This work traces the history of the juvenile correction system in twentieth century New South Wales, focusing on the evolution of major reforms aimed at curbing delinquency. The study begins in 1905 with the Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act. It concludes in 1988, when another set of significant reforms, designed to deal with perceived inadequacies of the established system, commenced. The main focus of the thesis is the government system of corrections. Although there was an active non - government correction system, this sector was increasingly absorbed by the larger public sphere. The principal argument is that, although there were sporadic periods during which changes to the system were made, its progress through most of the twentieth century was characterised by an underlying attitude which regarded the boys and girls it dealt with, particularly those committed to institutions, as belonging to an inferior, delinquent class. As such, they were treated as the progeny of a criminal class destined for the most part to remain part of that class. This idea of a delinquent class coloured all aspects of the way juveniles were treated, specifically lack of resources, the dominance of economic considerations over the welfare of children, excessive regimentation, harsh discipline and illegal punishments. When management problems arose they were met with increased coercion. Although lip-service was paid to the ideal of child saving, reality did not match the rhetoric. Programs which ostensibly were meant to individualise treatment so that it was tailored to suit each child, were carried out perfunctorily. Periodic and well-meaning efforts at reform were stifled by bureaucratic inertia, political considerations, and the entrenched belief that incarceration was preferable to treatment.


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University of Sydney, History